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On a winter afternoon

| Wednesday, January 19, 2022

I honestly don’t know what to write this column about. Typically I only have to write one of these per semester, and I usually pick a later date, storing up ideas until then, to make sure that when my turn comes, I have something halfway decent to say, something interesting and inspiring enough (to me) to warrant 500-800 words. I wasn’t expecting to write one this week and, without my store of topics or a singular genius idea, I’m a little at a loss for what to write (see, already it’s getting a little redundant). Did I mention I don’t know what to write yet? 

So let’s turn this into a fun little free-writing experiment and see where my thoughts lead me. As I’m writing, I’m in my friends’ condo, sitting incorrectly on a surprisingly comfy swivel armchair, listening to “26” by Caamp. It’s dimming slowly in the room, in the way that light slides slowly from afternoon to evening on a snowy afternoon, hitting every possible shade and nuance of grey as it does, the dimming only subtly noticeable because the light of your laptop gets incrementally brighter and the room feels somehow blue-er. The world just gets a little more sleepy, and everything moves a little slowly, despite how fast the light is fading. Thinking about fading light, have you noticed how much better winter sunsets are than summer sunsets? It’s like the sky is trying to make up for how early the sun is actually setting, distracting you with the most brilliant oranges and pinks you’ve ever seen. If you haven’t noticed, look.

To follow along with the vibe shifts in the slowly darkening room, my friends and I are now listening to exile” by Taylor Swift with Bon Iver (which I always first spell with an h for some reason, because I think, subconsciously, it needs to sound or at least look more like exhale). 

I am wholeheartedly a summer girl, despite what my opinion on winter sunsets might suggest, but there is something so lovely about staying inside, with little to do on a cold, snowy (or, more realistically, sleety) winter afternoon and just letting the world quietly get dark around you. There’s a peace and stillness to it that allows you to be still too, in a way we aren’t often still. There’s usually ambient noise in my house, even in silence, of my roommates going about their lives in different rooms, or the heat kicking on or off, the water in the pipes, or the street outside, the neighbors closing cabinet doors in their apartments, or even the wind in the tree outside my window. (Hear “Beige” by Yoke Lore.) Just the small noises of life as it happens with, in and around you. Every once in a while, however, there is a silence so profound, so palpable, so presently quiet, it feels like if you moved, if you reached out to touch it, something tenable would fracture. It’s such an amazing moment of stillness in a world that almost never feels still, and certainly rarely allows you to be still. And so instead of moving, or continuing with your homework, or whatever other task, you just breathe and listen to the quiet, afraid that if you acknowledge it too straightforwardly, it will spook and retreat as swiftly and unassumingly as it came.

Now, it’s “A Troubled Mind” by Noah Kahan, go figure. It’s funny to think about those little moments of pause, and what brings them on, that it’s the stillnesses in life or the moments between “moments” where I feel like I can actually reflect on existing or the fact that I’m in a moment to begin with. It’s those spaces between that allow us to breathe.

At this point my friends and I have cycled through a little more of our playlist, and are listening to “By and By” (also by Caamp, funnily enough), and that feels like a good, sort of full-circle place to end this very random, probably a little less-than-coherent, and perhaps self-indulgent column. It has no point, gets at nothing, other than maybe that I, a self-proclaimed summer girl, can enjoy the stillness of a quiet winter afternoon. For now that’s enough.

You can contact Abby at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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